Obama Plans Vast Research Project on Human Brain

The Obama administration plans to announce as soon as next month an ambitious project to map the human brain and its operation, in a decade-long effort that would involve public and private scientists and could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the research, The New York Times reported.

The project, dubbed the Brain Activity Map and organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, would include the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation, along with private organizations like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

The research, which the Times described as intending to do for brain science what the Human Genome Project did for genetics, will benefit from new technologies that will enable scientists to observe and interpret brain activity with great depth but less invasively than ever before.

The project, if successful, would increase understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s, technological challenges like artificial intelligence, and even basic questions of perception and consciousness. A first installment in the project’s overall cost, likely to be in the billions of dollars, will appear in President Obama’s budget for the 2014 fiscal year, due to be released in March, the Times said.

Mr. Obama hinted at the project in a part of last week’s State of the Union address that hailed the value of major scientific research efforts. At a time of a budgetary impasse between Congress and the White House, however, it is unclear if any such proposal would be enacted.

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